European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets through Four Countries

As the temperatures start to drop and winter starts to set in, so does the holiday spirit. Festive lights, spicy mulled wine, tasty treats, local handicrafts and holiday cheer are all overflowing at holiday markets and a visit is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. Christmas markets originated in Germany, and the tradition can now be found throughout the world.

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

I have wanted to visit the Christmas markets in Europe for as long as I can remember. This year we finally made that dream come true, and it was as fantastic as I had hoped! Because of a last minute work obligation, what started off as a summer trip through Europe, eventually turned into a Christmas market tour through Europe. I originally wanted to visit the famous market in Nuremberg, Germany, but after a series of changes for a variety of logistical and timing reasons, we decided to head to four cities: Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Austria; and Berlin, Germany.

We worked this trip into a two week timeframe, and while we wanted to spend more time in each city, we ended up settling with the bulk of our days split between Budapest and Berlin with quick stopovers in Bratislava and Vienna. It was so much fun exploring market after market and noticing the small differences at each one. Here are some of our favorite photos and a recap of the Christmas markets we visited in each city.

Budapest, Hungary

Over the course of five days, we wandered around Budapest and happened upon numerous markets. Some were small—only a half block long—and others took up large squares, offering block after block of festivities. We visited the markets at Vorosmarty Square, St Stephen’s Basilica, Erzsebet Square, and several smaller markets that we wandered by and never learned the names of. While the market at Vorosmarty was by far the busiest (probably because we visited on a Saturday), the others were more comfortably packed.

European Christmas Markets, Budapest, Hungary

European Christmas Markets, Budapest, Hungary

European Christmas Markets, Budapest, Hungary

European Christmas Markets, Budapest, Hungary

We would have to say the Saint Stephen’s Basilica market was our favorite—we loved the light show that took place on the front of the basilica!

European Christmas Markets, Budapest, Hungary

Some of the common foods at the markets were chimney cakes, langos, roasted chestnuts, sausages, goulash soup, parlor candy, strudel and stuffed cabbage. And, to drink, mulled wine was available in a variety of fruit flavors! We tested out the langos, strudel and stuffed cabbage at the Central Market on a food and cooking tour, so we didn’t try them again at the Christmas markets; however, we did purchase mulled wine and  a chimney cake cone with delicious chocolate inside.

European Christmas Markets, Budapest, Hungary

European Christmas Markets, Budapest, Hungary

Bratislava, Slovakia

We were lucky with our accommodations in Bratislava—we used reward points and scored an amazing room at the Radisson Blu Hotel, and one of the main Christmas markets was right out our front door! While the Bratislava markets all have handmade crafts and lots of beeswax products, we found a large focus on food and drink stands. We visited Hviezdoslav’s square (the market that was right outside of our hotel), Old Town Hall’s court, and the market that spans both Frantiskanske square and the Main square.

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

When we arrived at our hotel the first day of our Bratislava visit, we were starving, so our first stop was to the Christmas market for a late lunch. We ordered Ciganska Pecienka, which is basically a chicken (or pork) sandwich with mustard and onion—a very popular dish at the markets in Bratislava. For desert, we had a Bratislava roll and lokše (potato pancakes) with Nutella. There are savory lokše options, as well, but we went with the sweet option!

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

Our favorite was the market at the Main square because we went up the tower of the Old Town Hall at sunset and witnessed some amazing views overlooking the market! We also caught a gospel choir concert and sampled some amazing treats at this market, too.

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

At the Main square market, we ordered a Trdelnik (chimney cake) after a nice older gentleman insisted we try a bite of his. It was so warm and delicious that we couldn’t resist!

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

In addition to mulled wine, they also offer Medovina, which is a honey wine, and Punc, which is a fruit punch oftentimes with actual fruit pieces in it, so I just had to try both. They were both delicious but I think the punch might have been my favorite hot drink from the entire trip!

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

European Christmas Markets, Bratislava, Slovakia

Vienna, Austria

Our time in Vienna was very limited—we only spent one night in the city as we had a flight from Vienna to Berlin the next morning. That meant we had a lot of ground to cover in just one day! We were planning on checking out two markets, but we stumbled on so many by the end of the night that I had lost count. Our first market stop was at the Schönbrunn Palace market as it was near our hotel—we planned on walking over to the palace for a look at the grounds, and didn’t even realize there would be a market! It worked out well because we were starving—we tried potato soup in a bread bowl, a baked potato with all the fixings and the most delicious fresh filled vanilla cream donut that we’ve ever tasted.

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

The two markets we were planning on visiting were the Weihnachtsmarkt am Stephansplatz and Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz, but when we stepped off the subway we walked straight into the Art Advent market at Karlsplatz. I loved the arts and crafts sold at the Art Advent market, and the twinkling lights and scenery were magical.

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

On our way to the other two markets, we passed market after market and light displays in every direction. Our jaws were dropped in shock for practically the entire evening—we couldn’t believe how beautiful and festive the entire city was. I think we ended up walking through seven markets; the only problem is I don’t even know the names of most of them since we just quickly passed through on the way to our planned stops. The market at Stephansplatz was pretty, but we were more amazed by the towering church in the background!

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

I think our favorite market of the entire trip ended up being the Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz. It was our last stop of the night and we had so much fun exploring. First of all, it was huge! There were plenty of crafts, treats, and drinks offered, and for entertainment we found music, ice skating rinks and a light display in the park. I have to say—the ice skating rink at this market was one of the coolest skating rinks we’ve ever seen—there was a traditional open area and then a winding track that resembled a frozen highway twisting around the trees!

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

For a late dinner, we snacked on brats and apple strudel, and of course, I had to try the mulled wine once again. They call it glühwein and punsch in Austria; the glühwein was a traditional mulled wine and the punsch was a sweet orange punch. The nice guy at the stand gave me samples of both, and I went with the punsch as it was so different from anything else I’ve ever had. It was all delicious and the perfect end to a fantastic evening!

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

European Christmas Markets, Vienna, Austria

Berlin, Germany

Berlin had the most diverse range of Christmas markets than any of the other cities we visited. We checked out the popular Christmas markets at Potsdamer Platz, Gendarmenmarkt, and Alexanderplatz, as well as the more unique markets such as the Christmas Rodeo Design Market, the rooftop market at Neukölln Arkaden, and the market at Markthalle Neun.

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

All of these markets were so different it is hard to even know where to start! The markets at Potsdamer Plats and Alexanderplatz were both similar in the sense that they were located along the streets and squares in busy, commercial parts of the city. They both had festive food and drink stands and sold plenty of crafts. While both were fun to see, they didn’t have quite as much character as the other markets we visited in Berlin.

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

Markthalle Neun is a food market that also hosts a Christmas market every year, and in addition to the usual stalls inside, they add festive Christmas stands and deals for the holidays. They have an Advent Tree in the middle of the market and each day at noon, they reveal a new special discount taking place at the market.

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

The Christmas Rodeo Design market was interesting and one that I really ended up enjoying. The market was held inside and was filled with really awesome shops made up of small businesses. Think of an Etsy art market mixed with a Christmas Market and food trucks. I found so many items I wanted to purchase at this market, for both gifts and myself (but lets be honest, mostly myself). I guess it’s good that we packed in carry-on suitcases because otherwise I would have came out with my arms full! The food was really unique here, as well—I wanted to try everything, but my craving for sweet potato fries won out in the end. The only downside to this market was that it was four euros to enter; other than that, we really enjoyed it!

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

The rooftop market at Neukölln Arkaden might have been my favorite market of all, but unfortunately, it was closed when we visited due to high winds. The market is held on the roof of a shopping mall, and the entrance is a bit confusing as it is on the top level of a parking ramp. Entrance is normally three euros, but since there were only two stands open we looked around free of charge. The area is a bar and garden for most of the year, and there are unique art displays throughout the space. I was able to try the glühwein here, and I have to say, it was one of the better ones I tried on the trip. The views over the city were pretty fantastic, as well, if only it wasn’t raining.

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

My favorite market in Berlin was the Gendarmenmarkt; it was so pretty and festive, plus the food was more upscale and restaurant-like than the rest of the markets. The entrance fee was one euro, and we ended up visiting twice—once on a very packed Saturday and then again on Monday which was much more pleasant and less crowded. Over the course of the two visits, we ordered chicken and potatoes, currywurst, a custard topped waffle, a soft pretzel and candied macadamia nuts—everything was top notch!

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

European Christmas Markets, Berlin, Germany

Similarities and Differences

After two weeks of visiting over 20 different Christmas Markets in four different countries, we had fun comparing them all to one another. We noticed that the markets in Budapest and Bratislava served their mulled wine and hot drinks in disposable cups, while the markets in Berlin and Vienna served the mulled wine in glass mugs. When purchasing the wine with glass mugs, you had to pay a deposit for the mug, and then you could either keep it or return the mug to get your deposit back. Berlin was the only city where we found markets that charged for entrance—while there were several free markets, we also visited three that cost anywhere from one euro to four euros to get inside. Another obvious difference was the various regional foods from country to country—it was fun to get a taste of each regions special dishes!

While we noticed several differences throughout the markets there were plenty of similarities, as well. The majority of the similarities had to do with the way the markets were set up and that they were all decked out with an abundance of sparkling lights. Most of the markets were comprised of four main elements: food, drinks, crafts and entertainment. In addition to a variety of different foods, they all had some similar dishes such as sausages, strudels, chimney cakes, soups, and mulled wines. The one thing that stood out to us most was the festive spirit all around, so no matter which city or country you decide to visit, you really can’t go wrong!

Have you visited any Christmas Markets? Which one would be your favorite?

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36 Comments
  • Ad-lib Traveller
    Twitter:
    Posted at 10:42h, 24 December Reply

    Lovely photos, nothing like a Christmas market to really set the festive tone. I’ve visited UK markets this year but will make an effort to get to a European one again next year..

  • Vanessa
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:07h, 24 December Reply

    We were in Bratislava this summer and we absolutely loved it and felt like their food scene was very underrated – we would love to go back in the winter and try more goodies! Ryan did have a chimney cake in the summer and it was stuffed with ice cream – so good!

    I have to say, the soup in the bread bowl in Vienna looks like the perfect market food – I love soup!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:55h, 07 January Reply

      I agree–the food in Bratislava was amazing! Would love to check it out in the summer sometime–would be great to relax out on some of the patios! The soup bowl was delicious!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Lauren
    Twitter:
    Posted at 13:24h, 24 December Reply

    Great video guys!! I have yet to go to the Christmas markets in Europe but I’m thinking about going next year. I really want to try the drink with the fruit in it – MMMM! 🙂
    Lauren recently posted…Year in Review: Our Travels in 2016My Profile

  • Suzanne (PhilaTravelGirl)
    Posted at 13:54h, 24 December Reply

    Wow I’m hungry! Great cities to visit and love that you captured the food and shopping – I often find the food & wine highlights. While I’m not a shopper per se I’ve found my way around the “checked bag only issue” and that is to ship the items by post or smush what I can and bring shopping bag on board with carryon

    I’ve visited Vienna Christmas markets over 20yrs ago and would love to go back soon

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:59h, 07 January Reply

      That’s a good idea–we always think about shipping items home but then never end up doing it. We will have to consider it more next time! Hope you can go back to explore more markets sometime soon! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Rhonda Albom
    Posted at 00:28h, 25 December Reply

    Reading this and looking at your photos (especially the mouth-watering ones) was like being there without the cold.) They are each so festive. I am glad you got to capture Vienna, so well., even if you were only there a day.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted…2016 Photo Highlights: 4 Continents, 9 Countries, Lots of TransitionMy Profile

  • Himanshu
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:56h, 25 December Reply

    Awesome video and great post. My wife is after me to celebrate X-mas once in Europe and you have given me more reasons. Thanks.

  • Jennifer
    Twitter:
    Posted at 15:54h, 25 December Reply

    I’ve been to all these Christmas markets except for Berlin, though I’ve been to many others in Germany. Maybe because Vienna was the first ones we ever went to, but after all these years Vienna’s Christmas markets remain my favorites. I also loved Nuremberg, but you’ve got to go during the week. I don’t enjoy them so much when you have to fight through the crowds.
    Jennifer recently posted…Marche de Noel BordeauxMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:46h, 07 January Reply

      I would love to check out some of the others in Germany sometime, especially Nuremberg! It looks like such a cool one with some great history, but I agree, the weekend crowds can get to be too much. We always find ourselves planning weekday activities when we can just to avoid the crowds!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Lyn
    Posted at 23:04h, 25 December Reply

    Wow, what a great post. It took me straight back to being back in Europe visiting the Christmas markets last year. You even wrote about some of the same markets we went to. We never found a market we had to pay an entrance fee so were happy to miss that one.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:44h, 07 January Reply

      Thanks, Lyn! Glad you didn’t find any that you had to pay an entrance fee for. That was one of the only aspects we didn’t like about the markets, but thankfully it was only for a few of them! Glad to bring you back to your own memories of visiting the markets! Hope your holidays were great!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Rosemary
    Twitter:
    Posted at 11:35h, 26 December Reply

    Wow, that’s quite a few markets in a two-week timeframe. Did you have a favorite? Christmas markets are so much fun. I’ve only visited several in France and have not made it to Germany yet for the holidays. Agree with you guys, that it is so much fun tasting all the regional specialties…and in the end, it is the Christmas spirit that unites all Christmas markets 🙂

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:39h, 07 January Reply

      Yeah we were on Christmas overload by the end of the trip, lol, but the Christmas spirit is always so much fun! I think our favorite markets were in Vienna, but I’d love to explore more of the markets in different German cities sometime. Would be great to add those into the comparison mix!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Vicky and Buddy
    Twitter:
    Posted at 17:47h, 26 December Reply

    I lived in Germany for 3 years and honestly, Christmas Markets are what I miss the most! I’m so glad you were finally able to experience not one, but many markets. It’s such a cool thing to be a part of and witness and to be able to compare so many is really awesome.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:36h, 07 January Reply

      I can totally see how you miss them so much–they were so much fun to explore! I’d love to visit more of the markets in Germany someday. There were so many more German cities we wanted to visit on this trip, but I guess we will have to save them for a future visit!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Indrani
    Posted at 20:01h, 26 December Reply

    Such grand Christmas scenes! I haven’t been to Berlin yet. I am so glad to see the other 3 cities in their winter cloaks! You are lucky to have experienced so many winter markets.

  • Christopher
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:17h, 27 December Reply

    I’ve always been more of a grinch bah hum bug type. Maybe it’s because of the commercialization of Christmas. These markets always seem to. bring back the spirit. I’ve been to all these cities and would love to visit a Christmas Market Great post.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:31h, 07 January Reply

      Yeah, I can see where you are coming from with the commercialization aspect. We loved that the markets just brought a festive spirit to the holidays and they really seemed to bring people together for a fun and festive time!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Trisha Velarmino
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:01h, 28 December Reply

    You can never go wrong with celebrating Christmas in European countries. What a festive way to spend the month of December. Keep inspiring. Cheers xx

  • Elaine J Masters
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:23h, 28 December Reply

    What a wonderful and thorough post. Your pictures are stellar – they really give a sense of the experience. And that film! One of the best I’ve seen about Christmas markets. I like the way you set up the travel too. Always a pleasure to follow in the footsteps of such experienced travelers!

  • Les Petits Pas de Juls
    Posted at 12:45h, 28 December Reply

    My mother is a huge fan of Christmas markets! She and my step-father hit a new one every year for her birthday, they were in Vienna this December. Although I live in France most of the time, I’ve never been to any of them. After hearing so much about them from my mother and seeing your beautiful pictures, learning more about your own experience, I just feel like it should be on my list next time I’m in France in December.
    Thanks for the tour. Of all these cities, I only know Budapest in spring or fall so I’ll head out again for those special moments.

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you a beautiful adventurous 2017!
    Happy travelling!
    Jul’
    Les Petits Pas de Juls recently posted…Weekly Photo Challenge: PathMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:26h, 07 January Reply

      That sounds like a fun tradition–I love that she visits one for her birthday every year! Hope you have a good time if you visit some of the markets–we had a great time exploring them and Budapest was great around the holidays! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas too and happy travels and 2017! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Hannah
    Twitter:
    Posted at 07:17h, 30 December Reply

    YOU GOT THE SOUP IN THE BREAD BOWL! haha. That’s my favourite and I miss it. The markets in Vienna have always topped my list (I’ve been to a few in Germany, Austria, Ireland, and Paris) but I would love to go to the ones in Budapest. My first visit there didn’t go so well but I think I should give it a second shot and that the holiday season would be the perfect time to do so.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:21h, 07 January Reply

      Hahah! Yes! Couldn’t resist the soup in the bread bowl–so good! And we’d agree with you–the markets in Vienna topped our list as well. They were just so pretty and had such great food, too! Hope you enjoy Budapest the next time around. We loved it there, and the holidays were a great time to visit!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures of All TimeMy Profile

  • Megan
    Twitter:
    Posted at 19:34h, 30 December Reply

    Wow! I only went to one in Italy and would love a chance to explore more. All that food alone sounds amazing. Would love to try a chimney come!

  • Amy
    Twitter:
    Posted at 06:27h, 13 January Reply

    Your photos are amazing! We visited the Christmas markets in Budapest, but I was so overwhelmed by the crowds I didn’t really stop to take any pictures. And chimney cakes are delicious – we discovered them in Prague so I was so pleased to find them in Budapest too!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 04:10h, 21 January Reply

      Thanks so much, Amy! That’s too bad about the crowds! We were overwhelmed by the crowds one night in Budapest, too–it was a weekend and so busy. We found less crowds during the week, so that was nice at least. Glad you got to discover chimney cakes though!! 🙂
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